You’ve come home from a tiring day at work and all you want to do is crash out on the sofa and escape into the simplistic warmth of television. The kettle is on, the bread is in the toaster, and all stressful issues will soon be forgotten in a blaze of caffeine and high carb glory.
At that moment, you stare outside the window and observe a runner breathlessly grinding their way up a steep incline, a tongue-wagging, sweat-dripping, arms-flailing, eyeballs-out madman who is caught somewhere between leg-sapping pain and the ecstasy of achievement.
“What is this is all about?” you ask yourself as your extra thick custard cream biscuit starts to sink into your warm, cosy beverage.
Readers, I your humble narrator used to be in that very same camp. After years of dedicated running I simply stopped one day and lost all motivation to start again. My workout became going to the supermarket and my physical goal became trying to beat my record for getting out of bed in the morning (5 minutes, 12 seconds just in case you were wondering….).
For the past few months, however, I have reunited with my old love and have never felt better for it. Trust me when I say that food tastes better, the air feels fresher and the hills are alive with the sound of me gracelessly pounding up them.
Running provides multiple psychological and physical benefits, but we are going to start today with its greatest asset: how it helps people to lose weight. Here are four ideal running workouts for slipping down a few clothes sizes.
Running Workout #1: Sprinting
After a ten minute warm up, sprint hard for 200 metres (or 30-40 secs if you don’t have access to a track) before taking a ten minute rest to slowly gather your bearings. Repeat the process with two more sprints before warming down again with a ten minute jog.
This efficient session, once performed by Seb Coe himself, features the top speed requisite for true weight loss gain and will also assist in toning your entire body.
When sprinting, try to keep your head held high and your back arched nice and straight. Pump your arms in short furious motions and try to kick your knees up to your stomach to throw the full force of your body into the effort.
Whilst exhilarating, the strain of running at close to top speed will begin to feel painful once the vile beast otherwise known as lactic acid rears its ugly head around the halfway mark. This is where you need to concentrate on maintaining good posture and controlling your increasingly rapid breaths. Thinking about the 10 minute rest to follow should be a good incentive to grind out the temporary pain.
Remember, 90 seconds of hard effort here is worth 90 minutes of slow effort elsewhere.
Benefits in Summary: Improves Speed, Stride Length, and Strengthens the Arms and Legs.
Running Workout #2: Uphill
“Because it’s there” were the iconic words spoken by British climber George Mallory when asked why he wanted to climb Everest all the way back in 1924. You should treat the hills close by as your own personal Everest and take great physical pride in being able to conquer them. After all, there are few things more physically satisfying (yes, I’m sure we can all think of one) than making it to the top of a hard hill and looking back down to see what you’ve just accomplished.
For a hill session, don’t worry about speed because the weight loss benefits are all apparent in the effort it takes just to get to the top. Instead, just find a local incline and try running up and down it as many times as possible whilst keeping your head gazing upwards for efficient movement and easier breathing. Swing your arms slightly ahead of your body using accelerated motions to help power yourself up the slope and try to push up with your legs to create a dancing motion as opposed to pushing down into the surface of the hill.
Although this sort of session can be done on the treadmill, no machine will be able to match the elation of making it to the top of a climb.
Benefits in summary: Improves Running Form, Strengthens Upper Legs, Tones Stomach.
Running Workout #3: Downhill
Whilst running uphill delivers a rich feeling of accomplishment, running in the opposite direction stirs the old joyful feelings of breathless youth. A series of downhill efforts basically feel like relaxed sprinting; the pace and movements are similar, only here you have the assistance of gravity supporting you towards the finish line.
Take caution, however. Although running downhill feels easier, it actually takes a far greater toll on the body because of the eccentric force being placed on the quads and hamstrings. The great news is that once your body adapts to the change in movement, it will begin to reap the benefits of the pressure being applied, thus resulting in stronger tendons.
Take care when doing this session and if possible perform it on grass where the effort won’t require as much relentless pounding.
Benefits in summary: Strengthens Quadriceps, Improves Running Economy.
Running Workout #4: Strides Per Minute
If you want to work up a sweat but somewhat disguise the effort, then calculating your strides per minute is a good route to take. After a slow jog, simply start your watch and count how many times your feet touch the ground in a 60 second time span.
The key here is to try and develop the right timing so that your strides appear at an even pace. The effort itself should be comfortably hard, so definitely not conversational pace but not so difficult that you’re gritting your teeth and waiting desperately for the agony to fade. If you’re breathing reasonably hard but still feel in perfect control of your posture then you’ll know that you’re going at about the right pace.
When the minute is up, jog for as long as you wish before tracking your strides again and attempting to execute the exact same amount as before. Repeat this process until your strides start to fall short of the number from previous efforts.
Carrying on the session whilst gradually losing more and more speed will not be good for morale and will make you less interested in repeating the training at a later date. Instead, reflect on how balanced your strides were at the end of the workout and maybe consider starting out at a slightly slower pace in order to maintain your momentum for a longer time.
This session is valuable for developing a balanced pace for race situations and psychologically pleasing in the way it provides a mathematical distraction from the endeavor.
Benefits in Summary: Speed, Endurance, Balanced Stride Movements.
Have Fun with a Variety of Workouts
If you’re losing motivation whilst trying out the same old steady runs on the same old surfaces, then performing one of these sessions might help to reinvigorate your interest in the art of running. Although they require more willpower than your standard jog, the sessions are still relatively brief and the benefits enormous. The worse that could happen is that you might just emerge as one of those odd freaks who actually enjoys training.
So now over to you, what are your current running habits and how do you feel about trying some of the proposed workouts in this article?